‘Field of death’ claims another child

2015-01-08 00:00

JIKA Joe informal settlement’s “field of death” claimed its latest victim when Nontobeko Mjoli (5) was electrocuted by an illegal electricity connection yesterday.

According to her aunt, Mathepang Dlamini, Nontobeko was returning from the toilet when she stepped on exposed live wires on the ground.

“She fell and was electrocuted and died on the spot. We are in a lot of pain. She was such an adorable girl,” said a tearful Dlamini.

Her shocked mother, Malaki Mjoli, cried uncontrollably surrounded by neighbours who tried to console her. Paramedics were seen consoling her while testing her blood pressure.

When The Witness arrived at the scene, Nontobeko’s body was still lying between scores of exposed illegal wires with visibly shocked residents looking on.

Some blamed the government, saying it continues to fail them as they still have no electricity. Oblivious to the tragedy, other children were playing in the same area, with exposed wires leading from one shack to another.

With illegal electricity connections contributing to the load-shedding crisis, Eskom has called on perpetrators to be severely dealt with.

Eskom spokesperson Joyce Zingoni said the power utility sees illegal connections and energy losses as a challenge that can be addressed with the support and visible actions of business organisations, various spheres of government and communities.

She said perpetrators must face harsh sanctions.

“Action should be taken to disconnect the supplies, with some being prosecuted through the justice system,” Zingoni said.

She said the process of managing losses in businesses, identifying illegal connections and taking action against perpetrators is costly, but the biggest cost to the country is the lives lost through illegal connections.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube yesterday warned people to stop the practice because “these connections are putting additional pressure on the national grid which leads to load shedding”.

On Monday, a 17-year-old boy was electrocuted by an illegal connection at Copesville and Princess Ntuli, of KwaDukuza, died after a loose cable allegedly connected to a neighbour’s corrugated iron roof electrocuted her.

“We have consistently urged our communities to refrain from connecting electricity illegally and to acquire their electricity legally. We are optimistic that our law enforcement agencies will put those who are responsible for this unfortunate death behind bars,” Dube-Ncube said.

“All those who are connecting electricity illegally in the community are doing so at risk to the entire community. We are imploring law-abiding residents to report illegal electricity connections because ultimately if they do not, they will pay a heavy price.”

Zingoni said Eskom works closely with municipalities to ensure that all connections undertaken are in support of their Integrated Development Plan.

“We have permanent teams of inspectors and employees around the country who undertake audits and remove illegal connections on a regular basis,” she said.

• khanyisani.dlomo@witness.co.za

Report illegal connections to Eskom’s Customer Contact Centre on 08600 ESKOM or 08600 37566, or SMS your tip-off anonymously to the Crime Line 32211 (costs R1/SMS). All whistleblowers will remain anonymous.

ONE of the two Eskom generators that went offline yesterday was later repaired and was producing power, the power utility said.

“The system remains vulnerable, meaning that any extra load or faults in the system may necessitate the need to implement load-shedding,” spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said.

This was, however, a last resort to prevent a “total collapse” of the system.

Earlier, he said the failure of the two generators was part of a number of other problems which had exacerbated the situation. “We are not saying there will be load-shedding, but the risk is high between now [noon] and 10 pm. If we all work together and use electricity sparingly, we can avoid load-shedding.”

On Monday, Eskom said the power grid was constrained but stable after a spike in electricity usage as people returned from holiday.

At the time, Phasiwe said Eskom was able to meet the increased demand. The risk of rolling blackouts was low to medium. He said there had been an average daily electricity demand of 25 000MW since the start of the holidays, but this had risen to 30 000MW.

Eskom called on people to reduce power use by 10% during the day to help it conduct planned maintenance.

— Sapa

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